Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth – Amaranthus caudatus

Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth
Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth

Yet well I ken the banks where Amaranths blow,

Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.

Bloom, O ye Amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,

For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1825)

In Work Without Hope

This native of The Andes region of South America can now be found in India and Africa, as well as being cultivated in modern gardens worldwide. It is an annual plant that was intercropped for many years with cotton, maize, sorghum and beans. The plants that I have personally seen were at the National Herb Garden in Washington, DC. These plants were taller than my husband who is slightly over 6 feet tall. The beautiful, velvety, tassel-like flowering heads drooped all the way to the ground when fully open.

In ancient Egypt the amaranth was sacred to Artemis; it was supposed to have sacred healing properties and was used as a symbol of immortality. It was so sacred that it was used to decorate the tombs and images of the gods themselves. It was also used in the funerary rituals due to its association with immortality.

Back in the 70’s the Rodale Institute (who put out Organic Gardening) ran a study about growing amaranth. I don’t remember if I enrolled in a program ran by them or by the Mother Earth News magazine, but one of them asked their readers to participate in a summer challenge to grow this grain in back yard gardens. I enrolled, but due to unforeseen circumstances (pregnancy and divorce) I never actually grew the seed sent me! My lack of participation didn’t slow the process though, many people participated!

The plant was also evaluated by John Robinson, University of Michigan, and by the National Academy of Sciences (in separate studies) here in the USA. It was concluded that this plant of the American tropics may hold a key to increasing the world’s nutrition. Amaranth is high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, Vitamins E and B.

In South and Central American it was a staple of the diet, reaching its peak usage with the Aztecs around the time of the Spanish invasion.

It has also been used in the treatment of various ailments by the Aztec, Incan, and Mayan healers. They used both the seeds and the leaves for healing purposes.

This plant was also held sacred by many of these cultures. It was so sacred that dough made of the amaranth flour was formed and fashioned into figurines that were offered to the various Gods; these then were eaten to remember their Gods. This practice infuriated the Catholic priests that tried to convert them!

Newborn babies were ritually bathed and named on their fourth day, and then they were given amaranth dough figures to eat. The figures the newborns were offered reflected what they were expected to become; bows and arrows, or kitchen utensils.

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